As the coronavirus crisis takes its toll on societies and organizations — prompting critical decisions about business shut-downs, the cancellation of public and corporate events, working from home and greater support for employees — a very practical question arises. Could this be the tipping point for digital health, especially for such recent innovations as telehealth, which allows us to consult directly with healthcare providers via computer or mobile device?
With social distancing and shelter-in-place now all too familiar concepts, telehealth offerings could well be effective tools in managing the impact of the virus, according to Beth Umland, Director of Research at Mercer U.S. Health & Benefits, Dr. Lorna Friedman, Global Health Leader, Multinational at Mercer and Kate Brown, Center for Health Innovation Leader at Mercer U.S. Health & Benefits. They can aid in preventing infected patients and people with other health issues from congregating and possibly contracting or passing on the virus. Mercer is an affiliate of Guy Carpenter.
Significantly, telehealth has never been more widely available, if underutilized. Recent U.S. findings from the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans show that while telehealth is a ubiquitous offering among employers, utilization rates remain low, growing slowly from 8 percent in 2018 to 9 percent in 2019.
That is very likely to change, now that the coronavirus pandemic is a primary focus of societal and business concern. Importantly, telemedicine might be invaluable for behavioral health — especially if people are quarantined for many weeks and anxiety and depression mount.
Is this a new era of telemedicine and virtual mental health counseling, along with smart apps and sensors to track medications, artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose medical conditions or augmented reality to assist with pain and stress management? What role do employers play in providing digital health solutions? What do workers want, need and expect? And how can digital health offerings help employers to attract talent and achieve better health outcomes for their people?
To explore these questions, Mercer Marsh Benefits, Mercer and Oliver Wyman conducted a study that examines digital health innovation and the future of health care in the context of employee attitudes and work cultures. Mercer, Marsh and Oliver Wyman are all affiliates of Guy Carpenter.